Saturday, 19 February 2011

Bright Colours, Broad Brush ....

Taxi rank, Udaipur Airport, Rajasthan, India.  Its Monday.
The established farmers want an air-con taxi ... the new entrants want to spend as little money as possible (especially the one (clue: not Rona) who has lost his wallet). We would prefer to spend £10 less and wind the windows down.  The group splits: 3 to worship the air-con god with me and Rona on the budget deal.  It slowly dawns on me that 1800 rupees divided by two is more than 2400 rupees divided by three .... bugger!  
I smell smells in the warm air that rushes through my open window.  Yet its the bright colours that have most impact.  These colours are man made and worn by man but feel intrinsic to this land.  Ladies with saris of vivid pinks, yellows and reds; men have turbans of equal brilliance.  
The “established ones” laugh at us as they pass in their decadence ... then take amused pleasure in pointing out the aforementioned arithmetic when we arrive at Ranakpur two hours later.  I go in a huff for a total of 3 whole minutes.
We are staying in tents ... but nice ones.  Tony loses the drawing straws contest and has to endure my snoring ... yet again.  We are met by Ilse (she is German) and Hanwant who run LPPS, an organisation that aims to preserve sheep pastoral and camel herding traditions and rights.  They take us immediately to a sheep shearing “festival”.  The shepherds are dressed up for the occasion.  They chat, laugh and smoke as they part the wool, slowly and deliberately, from their sheep. This is not about economics but about brotherhood.

Smokin' Mike Blanche .... it was just tabacco ... I think

I tell them that I have 600 sheep and achieve a 150% lambing ... it is the first time anyone has been impressed with this .... I should come here more often.  For a few moments I am the Shepherd God ... in my own mind.
The next morning we are taken to see camels and their herders.  Hanwant honours us by presenting us with turbans from his Rajput (warrior) caste.  He has not accounted for the fact I have a head so big, my neck could theoretically snap at any minute. It is so huge scientists have recognised that it possesses its own gravitational force and that tiny moons orbit round it. The Turban sits awkwardly well above my cranium’s full circumference. 

The Rajasthani Massive ... Kevin doesn't have height issues ... he's just kneeling down

Again the herders are far less about money and far more about life ... about relationships with their animal charges and with each other.  They give us camel milk, warmed as it would have been warmed a millennium ago.  They proudly stuff Neem leaves up a camel’s rectum and then clamp the aforementioned orifice with a split stick.  I wince as my imagination allows me to go through the logistics of how this procedure could be completed ... with me as the patient. 

The clamping procedure - do not try this at home!  Nice turban colours though. 
In the afternoon we have a deep debate then go to a temple - Kevin provides the sound track with a full discography from Walt Disney’s Jungle Book.  In the evening we visit Ilse and Hanwant for dinner.  We see the camel poo paper being made and hear about the camel milk ice cream. They are innovating in order to preserve - rather than change - a way of life. We have yet another deep debate ... I'm starting to enjoy them in a masachistic kind of way.  
In the morning I have time for one more huff before we leave ... I must be on my man period.  I travelled Australia and New Zealand on my own.  Here I have four strong and admirable characters with me.  I learn much from all of them. They make me question things.  Sometimes - in business terms - I feel far, far behind them.  I think I am burdened to be like my fellow Rajasthani shepherds ... less about economics, more about brotherhood.  I fear I will always be short of money as I give up any possibility of wealth as a sacrifice ... to my very own ... God of Dreams. 

Camel milk actually tasted pretty good. Light and frothy ... mmm!

Either I've grown, or this is a small camel.  The unfortunate head size to turban circumference ratio / matrix dilemma, can be seen clearly here. 


julesandtim said...

Tobacco my a--e, you look like a man who has just taken an unexpected big hit on a chilum full of the finest Rajastani toursit grade hash.
Note the pale face, the gaping mouth and the rapidly closing eyes
You're busted son!

(Arrest Warrant issued by Sargeant Stadanko 19/2/11)

Michael Blanche .... bless said...

But officer, I was only embracing an alien culture! I am innocent ... though your theory might explain my brief belief that I was a really good shepherd, immediately afterwards.